Cecilia Giberson




Cecilia Giberson




Cecilia Giberson


Diane Greene

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Carolyn Mazloomi


Twin Falls, Idaho


Diane Greene


Diane Greene (DG): My name is Diane Greene, and today is October 14th, 2006. It's 10:30 a.m. and I'm conducting an interview with Cecilia Giberson at my home in Twin Falls, Idaho, for the Quilters: Save Our Stories project. We're doing this through the American Heritage Committee of the Twin Falls Chapter of Idaho State Society Daughters of the American Revolution. Cecilia is a quilter and a member of the Twin Falls Chapter DAR.

Hi Cecilia. Thanks for coming in and doing this with me today. I love the quilt that you brought in today. And we're going to start by talking about this specific piece. Can you just tell me a little bit about it?

Cecilia Giberson (CG): This is a quilt I started when we lived in Germany. That's where I really got into quilting was over there. These are handkerchiefs that I had collected and there are ones from Italy, Greece, France, Belgium, Switzerland. Oh gosh I can't remember all the other countries we went to around there. And then I have one that was my grandmother's handkerchief in it. And I've taken the handkerchiefs and folded them into a butterfly shape because I love butterflies, and then I've hand appliquéd them with a blanket stitch on there, and then pieced the blocks together, and then the quilt itself is hand quilted. And I took it back in Peabody, Kansas, when I got back here in the states, and I went down to the senior citizens place and one of my old Bible study teachers quilts there. So, she and I and a bunch of the other ladies sat around quilting on this. So, it was quilted--

DG: Wonderful.

CG: by the Peabody senior citizens and myself.

DG: Do have any particular favorites of the squares here?

CG: Well, like I said, the one down here that was my grandmother's. Which is this bottom row center, I guess [points to bottom row of quilt, second from left.]. And then Switzerland, because I really love Switzerland. So those are the two. And then I like the butterfly one that has the butterfly on the handkerchief itself. It's white [referring to the background.] with just the little handkerchief.

DG: Now when was this that you were over there?

CG: I started this in probably 1990 but it was finished in 1995. So, it took me a few years [laughs.] by the time I got everything done. And then quilted, because piecing it together and then when I took it back to Kansas and the ladies helped me quilt it.

DG: Well, it's really beautiful. And it does fit in--want to describe a little bit about why it's special to you besides the individual pieces?

CG: Well--

[DG and CG speak at same time.]

DG: Because you are a big butterfly collector.

CG: It's the butterflies. I just absolutely love butterflies. So, this one, when I had seen the picture in a magazine, and that's all I seen was a picture of a quilt, and I thought, 'Now, I know I can figure out [laughs.] how to do it.' And if you notice, not of all the butterflies are, the handkerchiefs aren't folded all exactly the same, but they're as close as I could get it, you know, to do. And of course, they're different sized handkerchiefs so they all make a difference too. And you know, I just really -- it brings back lots of memories of when we lived in different places. And the little purple one over there, the second row down [points.], the little purple one was given to me by my landlady in Germany. And she knew I liked -- what I was doing, and so she went out and found me that handkerchief special to put on it.

DG: Now, when did you start quilting? Had you been quilting long before you did this piece?

CG: No, I started quilting in '89. We got to Germany, and I took a basket lining class from a friend. And when we got through with the class, she asked all of us to give her some of our fabric. And I'm a very nosy person [laughs.] so I said 'well, why do you want a piece of our fabric?' She said, well, she was also a quilter and that she was going to put all of our pieces in a quilt. So, we got to talking and she told me a lady that had taught her how to quilt, so I got a hold of her and got some basics down. And then from then I have taken a few classes but I'm kind of self-taught. When I want to do something, even if it's not quite right, I just do it [laughs.].

DG: Had you had much experience before you did this piece?

CG: No. This is actually my second piece.

DG: Wonderful.

CG: So, I did my one that she taught me, and then I started on this one. And like I said, it took a little while because of the hand appliquéing. And, yeah, in Germany everybody says 'oh, you probably didn't have much to do' because I didn't work there. I was too busy seeing and doing other things to have a job. So, this was fun because I could throw one of the squares in my stuff and take with me because it was hand appliquéd. So, it made it fun that way. But it took a while because I didn't have time to just sit and work on it. I then I just found the butterflies that you see around the border that are quilted down that pattern after I got back here to the states. And it was a template. So, I was sure glad that I had waited that long to get it all done. I really think that just finished it up.

DG: I know you collect other butterfly things, so this must fit in--

CG: Oh yes. [laughing.]

DG: Perfectly with your collection.

CG: Yeah, I have to always get everything with a butterfly to go along with all my other stuff that I do.

DG: Do you remember what that first quilt looked like?

CG: My very first quilt was a little wall hanging. And it's still back in the guest bedroom in our house. And it's done in browns and pinks because when you were in Europe it was hard to get hundred percent cotton fabric and that's what the gal told me you've got to buy. So, it was kind of hard. So, it was brown and pinks but that fit in my house, so I was fine. And it's a sample quilt -- a wall hanging. She had me do quite a few different pieces. That way I learned how to do curves, I learned how to do triangles, set in pieces. [inaudible due to technical difficulty.] house on it. Gee, now I can't remember what the other four blocks are. I know the house block.

DG: Do you have any idea how many quilts you've made over the years?

CG: Oh, my goodness. No [laughs.]. I'd have to really stop and count. But it's probably up in the hundreds.

DG: Oh, my goodness.

CG: Because I have made all my grandchildren several baby quilts and then bigger quilts and bigger quilts. And my mother has gotten several quilts. And I have made lots of quilts for fire victims and veterans ['veterans' inaudible due to technical difficulty.] for fire victims, my girlfriend and I, and then we've done for the [inaudible due to technical difficulty, and DG and CG talk briefly about the taping problem.].

DG: So, you've given a lot away as gifts.

CG: Yeah, I have very few of my quilts at home. That's why when people say, 'oh, you probably got lots of quilts,' I have to stop and think, 'no, not really.' I have to dig for a lot because I do; I make them and give them. And that's the joy I get from it.

DG: I'm sure they're appreciated by the veterans and--

CG: I think so.

DG: The fire victims as well. But this is one you're going to keep I guess [pointing to quilt that CG brought.].

CG: Yes, this one is mine. And the boys know it. My son, he keeps teasing me and saying he's going to take it and use it for one of his car blankets. [laughs.]

DG: [laughs.] Oh no.

CG: No way. [laughing.]

DG: Have others in your family been involved in quilting?

CG: My grandmother was a quilter, and my one aunt, my mother's next younger sister, was a quilter. And as a child, my mother used to take--as I was a child, my mother used to take my grandmother out to my aunt's for quilting bees. And I got to go play with my cousins then. And

Mom would drop Grandma and me off and she'd take off and go do something else, and my cousins and I would play underneath the ladies' quilt frame that they had set up. And we used to make fun of the old ladies quilting [laughs.] And so now my cousin always reminds me that I'm one of those old ladies. [both laugh.]

DG: But you didn't start as a child?

CG: No. I sewed, but not quilted. And so, I didn't start that until later in life then came back to my roots.

DG: Wonderful. What is it that you enjoy about quilting?

CG: I think it's the fun of being able to see a piece of fabric and what you can [laughing.] cut it up and sew it together and cut it up, as my landlady in Germany used to say to me, and then what you come up with. And the different things you can do. And just the peace and quiet in my sewing room doing it, and not having anybody around me. [laughing.]

DG: So, you enjoy the process itself.

CG: Yes. Sometimes more than even, really, the finished--I just enjoy, you know, going and finding the fabric and cutting it and sewing it together and seeing what I come up with.

DG: Are there any aspects of it that you do not enjoy?

CG: Yes. When my points don't come out, I don't want anybody to see my quilt. [both laugh.] That part, I really don't--I can struggle with some patterns and no matter what I've done, they won't come out. And those are put back where they don't get seen very often. [both laugh.]

DG: Do you have a stash of fabrics at home, or do you think about a particular design first and then go out and look at the fabrics?

CG: Oh, yes, I have a stash. [laughs.] I see a piece of fabric in the store, and I buy it, and then I find the quilt to go with it. Or the quilt pattern to go--I'm not one of these that find the pattern first and then get the fabric. No, I buy fabric first and then find something that I'll go and put it into. So yes, I have lots of fabric at home. I have a whole closet full.

DG: Do you always use; do you always buy a pattern?

CG: Yes and no. This particular quilt [pointing to quilt brought to interview.], no. I see it in a magazine. I did not purchase it or anything. It then became mine -- It's their design but yet it's mine because I didn't follow any instructions to go with it. And sometimes I purchase, sometimes they come in magazines. I have a lot of old, old patterns. Another one of my favorites [inaudible.] is Sunbonnet Sue, and that's because I used to sleep under one as a baby. And I have a few of the blocks left. I traced her off and I've made several Sunbonnet Sue quilts now using the traced pattern. So, she was not a bought pattern. So that's a yes and no. I have but I don't always.

DG: It sounds like what you're saying is you buy the fabric first, then have an idea, and then maybe try to find a pattern--

CG: Right.

DG: That goes with it.

DG: A few years ago, the '30s fabric came back in, the style. And then I bought every piece of '30s fabric you could find. Then I decided, 'Oh, well, my Sunbonnet Sue, she's a 30s doll, you know.' So, then all of it's gotten worked up into either Sunbonnet Sue or Overalls Sam. So, yeah, I buy fabric because I like it and then I put it into something. [laughs.]

DG: Are there particular colors you tend to go with?

CG: Yes. I'm a mauve person. And so, I tend to mauves. If I buy something with blues it's very hard for me to work it into a quilt because I like wearing blues, but I don't want blue in my house. And so, to work a quilt up with blues is hard. My one daughter-in-law loved blues, and when I went to make their quilt, it was the hardest quilt I've ever made because I had to work with blues. But it got done and it's beautiful. [laughs.] So, she loves it. But that was, I think, one of my most challenging quilts is working with the blues.

DG: Now, the ones you've done for the veterans or the fire victims, do you have a pattern you tend to use for those?

CG: No. Just anything. We're usually given a size, they want like 40 by 40, or you know, within reason. They don't want great big, huge ones because they like them for their laps. But they don't want them so tiny that they can't tuck them in around them. When we've done them for the fire victims, they don't care what size. They take any and all. For the babies, we have done lots of them for newborn babies, and they ask that they be at least 36 by 36 ['36 by 36' inaudible due to technical difficulty.]. So that's the only guidelines we have. And for the babies, I try to make theirs with the flannel backing because they're so soft and cuddly. Other than that, we just do whatever we feel like.

DG: I didn't ask what you used for the backing for this quilt that you brought today.

CG: This one has the white backing, just like the front is white. And then I like what's called warm and natural batting in between the two. It's a cotton but it's not just a hundred percent cotton. It's got a little in it. It stays better. You can quilt a little further apart with it without it pulling apart and bunching up in the corners and stuff. I am not one that likes these big, fat polyester ones. I just don't care for those. I like more traditional. The cotton itself is actually really hard to quilt through. You have trouble getting that needle going where you want it to. So, I prefer the blended.

DG: Now, do you machine quilt, hand quilt, both?

CG: Both, but I have a tendency to go to the hand quilting. I just -- it's back to tradition [laughs.]. I guess that's all I can say. It's back to the traditional. Machine quilting is okay on one that I give to my grandchildren and stuff because I know it's going to be used and washed and used and washed. That it needs to be really something that can withstand the wear. This one [points to quilt brought to interview.] will be just hung up, it's not made to really be used a lot. I wouldn't have used white. [laughs.]

DG: And just the process itself, you enjoy hand--

CG: I enjoy hand more.

DG: -- more than the other.

CG: Yeah, even though it's not the best, I still enjoy it [laughs.].

DG: What do you think makes a great quilt?

CG: To me, it's the love that goes into a quilt. And I know some people can look at some quilts and say 'oh, they're gorgeous' and I can look at the same quilt and think 'okay.' [both laugh.] It's not me. I'm not one of these that like these real modern quilts. I'm a traditional -- I go back to the more traditional. I like a quilt that has what we call 'eye resting areas.' That your eye can look at it but you can stop and look at each area separate without it being so much that you can't see what it is. And there are some quilts that are so busy, and they are very intricate piecing and stuff, but your eye is so busy trying to take it all in that they're not pretty now. And so, to me a quilt that's made with love and has places for your eye to rest.

DG: Do you also make wearable art?

CG: Yes, I have made several vests for myself. I have made my grandchildren all vests--my grandkids get a lot. I have made sweatshirts, where you buy a sweatshirt and then you add stuff to it; it becomes like a jacket. I've made bags to carry. I've made a lot of wearable clothes.

DG: That sounds good. Now, do you belong to a guild or a group currently?

CG: Yes, I belong to the Elyhee Quilters in Mountain Home [Idaho.]. I belong to BBQ [Boise Basin Quilters.] in Boise.

DG: What was the first one that you said?

CG: Elyhee.

DG: Could you spell that? [laughs.]

CG: Yeah, I figured you would say that. It's E-L-Y-H-E-E.

DG: Okay.

CG: Elyhee.

DG: And they're in Boise, Idaho?

CG: [both speaking at same time.] It's a little quilt group, that they're in Mountain Home and we meet on the third Thursday. I have a feeling I'm going to be dropping my BBQ because they have in their wisdom changed their meeting date to the third Thursday ['Thursday' inaudible due to technical difficulty.]. Our little group in Mountain Home has been meeting the third Thursday for twenty-five years. We're not going to change our date. So I have a feeling the other one will be out and Elyhee will stay in because it's local. And out of that group, we have a little group that meets on the first Saturday of the month and we get together and just sew on whatever project you want to bring in. And we're there to help anybody that's new to the group, anybody that has any questions [inaudible due to technical difficulty.], we try to help you. We may not always succeed, but we try. [laughing.]

DG: How many people are members of that?

CG: The Saturday group, there's usually about eight of us there, and then the others come and go. Our Elyhee group, I think there's twenty-five members. BBQ, it's up in the hundreds. I can't tell you for sure. It's such a big group, that it's too big. I like the smaller, more intimate.

DG: What do you do at a typical meeting?

CG: At our meetings at BBQ, they have a, someone usually gets up in front and talks, and they have show and tell, and that's really kind of it. At our group, we get together and our president calls us to order, and then she goes over any old business, and any new business, like if a quilt show's coming up or we want to go, or somebody had been to one. And then we have show and tell if anybody has any quilts to show or whatever. Then we usually have a program chairman. This year everybody is taking turns talking about their favorite quilt blocks. Giving a little history about maybe when the quilt block came into being, showing how to make that quilt block. Then they give us the pattern and a lot of times we try to make the quilt blocks that night. So, it's fun, that way we can learn a little about each person and what they like. We've got some very traditional ones and we're going to some very modern ones. Some of the girls really love paper [inaudible due to technical difficulty.] fabric on it and stitch through the paper and all. And it makes pretty good, nice lines but I'm not sure I like paper piecing. [laughs.] The jury's still out on that one.

DG: Do you have a lot of quilting supplies or other sewing memorabilia?

CG: It's a joke with most of us [laughs.] that are quilters and sewers and stuff--we get into it for all the toys. [DG laughs.] So yeah, if you walk into my sewing room, and there is almost every new gadget that comes out. Yes, you've got to buy it; you've got to have it. And then there's some that I've taken to our swap meets and got rid of because I've decided they aren't what I thought they were going to be. But yes, I'm very much into the new modern rotary cutting, with the rotary cutters and the nice acrylic cutting rulers and stuff, more than using scissors.

DG: Okay.

CG: So, yeah, I've got to have all the toys [laughs.].

DG: Have you ever won an award for your--

CG: Yes, I have won several different awards. One quilt that I made for my husband, which was a challenge quilt that five of us gals got together [inaudible due to technical difficulty.] We all brought in, it could only be plaids or stripes. Nothing else could be in this quilt. Oh, solids -- plaids, stripes and solids. And we took, and you brought in so much fabric and we swapped it amongst us. And they had to be cut in three-inch squares and two-inch squares. And we brought this fabric in, and we all swapped it out. One other girl went, and she found five, six different patterns that could be used with these blocks. And squares could be cut to triangles or rectangles and stuff. She had the patterns in these envelopes and we each took an envelope. I love rocky road candy, so there was an envelope marked rocky road, so I had to take that one [laughs.]. What a way to pick a quilt. So, and then you took the pattern home, you took your stash of fabric home, and you made this quilt. We took them all back--none of the quilts looked the same. But this quilt I took to the fair and I won reserved grand champion on it.

DG: Oh, wonderful.

CG: So, the girls were really tickled to think their pieces of fabric was in the--[laughs.] So, it was quite something. And then some of my wall hangings have taken blues, and I took a special award for my wall hanging in Germany. It was at a craft show and it took the crafters' award.

DG: Oh, wonderful.

CG: So, I felt good, and so did my teacher [laughs.].

DG: Do you often enter in the county fairs?

CG: I do, but here lately I have backed off on some of my quilting in them to give some of the other girls, some of the newer ones. Because some of them were complaining that 'well, all of you that's been quilting for a while, we don't stand a chance.' So, a lot of us have backed off and we just take them and show but don't enter them in judging. So that way people can still see them.

DG: Have any of your quilts ever appeared in a newspaper?

CG: Yes, the one over in Germany was put into the Hahn paper. It was Hahn something. I can't remember what it was called. But it was the Hahn air force paper they put out, because they put all the winners at that craft thing.

DG: Do you have any quilts that have been made by other people? Do you collect quilts, or do you have so many of your own that--

DG: No, I have some that's made by other people and a lot of them have quite the history to them. I have a crazy quilt that was made in the early 1900s. It's got quite a history. It was a friend of my mother's. It's never been [inaudible due to technical difficulty.] finished because I love it the way it is. Then I have one that my great-grandmother made, the quilt with the wrong side out but you can still see through and so it's quite something. Then I have little wall hangings that I have bought that other people have made. If I see something I like, I buy it [laughs.]. And I have some angel dolls that have been made out of old quilts that were no longer usable and so we use them as cutter quilts, and I have a couple [inaudible due to technical difficulty.].

DG: Is your home just covered in quilts? [both laugh.]

CG: If you ask my husband, he'd say 'yes.' [laughs.] Yes, I have a quilt, just about every area in the house; there is some kind of a quilting item. Maybe not a quilt, but a wall hanging or -- Yeah, I can't think of a room that doesn't right now. [laughs.]

DG: You must have a very supportive husband.

CG: He is. He knows this is one of my favorite things. And he goes to quilt shows with me. And he knows when we take trips that I am going to find the quilt shops or fabric shops. And he has gone online to find them for me when we go on vacation. Because he knows that's my fun in my trip. So, he's very good with that. [laughs.] And he kind of enjoys going in and looking at different quilts too with me. He doesn't always understand them all, but he does enjoy it. So, I'm very lucky to have him.

DG: [comments on distraction from tape recorder problem.] In your experience, do you think there's been a resurgence in quiltmaking in either your area or in America? I mean, it seems like there's been a lot of interest in quilts these days.

CG: I think in America there has been, because I've seen some reports in some of the big quilt shows and seen some of the quilts. And it seems to be revived. Our area takes spurts. A few years ago, at the county fair we had so many quilts that we could hardly get them all into our area. This past year we were struggling to get enough to really show. And so now we need to get back out there and drum up some more business. It comes and it goes. And it's something we don't want to lose in America today. So, we really need to [inaudible due to technical difficulty.]

DG: Are there younger women participating in the groups that you belong to?

CG: We have a few, but not very many. It's the older generation, and that's what we need to do is get the younger generation. My grandchildren love the quilts, they love sleeping under them, but when I try to get them to [inaudible due to technical difficulty.], no way. [laughs.] And so, I-- little by little I'm trying to keep them, and my one granddaughter did make, I really can't, it's a quilt but it isn't a quilt. But we took the fleece, and we stitched it together and then she snipped around it, so it has a raggedy look and stuff. And she was real pleased with it. And I thought, 'well, at least we got that much done.' And so maybe she will come back and do it, you know. Cuz I said like, I didn't do this when I was younger. It was those old ladies. [laughs.]

DG: What do you think is the best way for somebody who has no experience quilting to get started?

CG: To find a very simple pattern that they like. Don't go overboard trying to find a real difficult one. Start with the very basics. Take a nice beginning quilting class from a good teacher. Don't really try to get a book and read it. Yes, it does work that way, but really if you're struggling and you don't know, get a teacher. And ask questions and find a group. [inaudible due to technical difficulty.] okay, this is the way you thread a needle. You know, I still learn every day, I'm learning something new from somebody. Always new techniques, always new ways. And they're probably older than the hills, but they're new to us all. But do go out and get someone to help you. And don't be scared to take a class and act like a dummy because, after all, we all have been there.

DG: Are you working on a quilt right now?

CG: Yes. [laughs.] I have one--

DG: That's a silly question.

CG: I have one that I'm hand quilting and it's kind of got put back in the waylay, but it will be done some year. [laughs.] I have another one that I have been working on for years and years and it's an appliquéd one. And it's one that I pick up and take with me. Of course, it's a butterfly again. But it's one that I work on when I go places. And so, it's taking a long time. I have another one in the sewing room that is sitting there waiting for me to put the binding on, and then it will be done. [both laugh.] But it's just kind of sitting there. It's been waiting for quite a while, and just finding the time to go in and sit down and do it--

DG: Is it typical for you to be working on more than one at a time?

CG: Oh yes. If I had to work on just one, I don't know if I'd--I get bored easy. I don't like doing the same thing over and over. So, I have several projects--not just quilting, I mean other things too -- so I have several projects going at one time. That way if I get frustrated, I can leave it alone and go do something else and then come back. Because if something frustrates me, my first instinct is to pick it up and throw it in the garbage. [laughs.] And so, it's better to just leave it, go to something else, and then come back. But yes, I have several--

DG: Are the ones you're making now, are those going to be gifts, or are they--

CG: The one will be mine, for sure. And then the butterfly one will be mine. This other one is probably going to end up going to my daughter-in-law because it's got a lot of blues [laughing.] and maybe that's why it's sitting there so long waiting for the binding. Because it does have a lot of blue fabric in it, and I just don't care for it. So, she will probably inherit another quilt.

DG: That's wonderful. Well, I thank you very much for doing this with me today and for showing me this beautiful quilt. And I appreciate the time.

CG: You're welcome.

DG: Thanks so much.


“Cecilia Giberson,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed April 13, 2024, https://qsos.quiltalliance.org/items/show/1710.